America’s Biggest Toys

America’s Biggest Toys.

SEAWORLD 2002

‘Discovery cove is a paradise of rocky lagoons’ is what welcomes you on the home page of Discovery Cove’s website. At SeaWorld you can join ‘majestic killer whales’ on a journey ‘into a world that drenches your senses in vivid color’. And, for a limited time you can see all this for the low, low price of $74.99 (kids under nine go free). Like many seven-year-olds I was thrilled to see penguins and sea lions and dolphins (in a special VIP encounter). It was our first trip to the United States, and my and my brother’s faces twisted into smiles when we saw what it had to offer. My brother ordered a ‘slushee’ and we all laughed when it turned his mouth blue.

If Disney Land is the most magical place on earth, SeaWorld comes a close second. How could it not when their dedicated rescue team are creating ‘nutritional formulas’ for orphaned animals, and saving ‘sea turtles with cracked shells’ using only ‘honey and baby ointment’? Over the last fifty years, SeaWorld claim to have benefitted over 28,000 animals. In the wild, a killer whale’s life expectancy is only 30-50 years and Corky is 51. It’s a magical place where I swam with sting rays that looked like table cloths and I watched a parrot relieve himself on my brother’s head.

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The Bongs

The Man on the Bench.

PART ONE.

             As I drag my sorry arse out of the mattress I notice a post-it note lovingly stuck in my hair:
                               ‘Stop using my house for sleep! I will call the police next time!’
Classic Rahim. I find a pen in my back pocket and write our names in a little heart at the bottom.

It’s interesting, I think. It doesn’t matter which way I turn I always end right back here. Maybe not here ‘here’, but a similar ‘here’. Always a stretch of floor and always a little hungover; a stranger’s bed and feeling fully aware that time just keeps tick-tock-ticking away.
              That is my understanding anyway. And technically it’s not a stranger’s bed. It’s a mattress on the floor of a Man-Who-Sells-Big-Issues-on-Street-Corner’s Home. His name is Rahim and I’m pretty sure he’s my closest friend. I would like to say best friend but the truth is that I’m not sure if I’m ready for that kind of commitment. At my age I’m not even sure how you become best friends with someone. When I was younger I would just waltz up to a guy (or gal) hand them a sherbet dib-dab, shake their sticky hand and simply announce our new found best friendship. But as an adult? I don’t think confectionary cuts it these days. Maybe jewellery, like those little hearts with the cut through the middle; ‘Rahim and Stretch: BFFs.’
              
            And so, just like that I grab my Mighty Boosh bag and head for the door. I catch sight of myself in the landing mirror. I shudder. I leave. Stepping right into a small pile of sick in the doorway, I’m pretty sure it’s mine, but I’m not going to clean it up right now. Or ever. That wouldn’t be my jam, and I refuse to settle for anything less. Jam. Am I hungry? Have I eaten in the last twenty-four hours? Wasn’t I supposed to call Ma before dinner yesterday? If I didn’t eat dinner I definitely did not call. So, now I’m hungry and guilt-ridden; happy Tuesday me. Tuesday Tuesday Tuesday. The most important day of the week. Tthhee mmoosstt iimmppoorrttaanntt ddaayy ooff tthhee wweeeekk.

-Hi there, can I ask if you care about animals?
-… coming to an end! LEAVING THE EU WILL KILL OUR CHILDREN.
-Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!

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Picture This

Picture This.

“Picture this,” Amy said. She was stood on a bench outside London King’s Cross and the tourists kept taking her photo, mistaking her for an attraction. Tommy was opposite with a plastic bag full of cheap cider, crisps and dodgy sherry. Her hair was vibrating in the autumn wind. “Me and Lex. We’re sat in History with a backpack full of vodka between us and Mr. Harps- you remember Mr Harps?”

            “Uh-huh,” Tommy said. He zipped his hoodie to the top and grabbed a can from his bag.

            “Mr Harps wanders over and asks- Tommy?”

            “I’m listening,” he said into his phone. “Haven’t heard from Justin.”

            “And yah won’t, love.” Amy said, now pacing along the bench. “He won’t’ve charged his phone, but he’ll be here.”

            “Yeah.” Tommy said, flipped the phone closed and put it in his back pocket. “So you and Lex?”

            “Moments passed, mate,” she said and using Tommy’s hand as support, she jumped down. “But it’s a good’un.”

            “Tell me later,” He said, opened the can of cider and poured some into a drain. “We’ve got all day.”

 

            “Picture this,” Tommy said. Justin had just rocked up twenty minutes late and clapped both of their hands and backs.

            “No,” Justin said. “Not yet.” He picked up Tommy’s bag and he and Amy started walking towards the underground. Tommy watched them walk for a few seconds before jogging to join them. He wasn’t exactly sure how long it had been since the three of them had been together, but he did know that they would meet for Lex’s birthday like they had since they were in school. Every year had meant a different London district and today they were starting in St James’s Park. Gone were the days where they would sit in a cheap Southampton bistro and drink rounds paid for with copper coins. The boys with banjos that they used to watch had all grown up and moved to commuter towns with their boring wives and boring children. Justin was now getting supporting slots with top forty bands and fucked off on tour every few months, Tommy had started to give up on his music career before it had started and Lex? Ha. Recently, Amy had told him that some days when she woke up with a dry mouth and rattling head she would trace her fingers over the pictures of the four of them: Tommy with more ink than sense and a height that meant his forehead rarely made the print; Justin, in an acid wash denim jacket, stood on his tiptoes to try and fool future viewers that he was anything more than 5’9, and little Lex, beaming in the centre with her shoulder length white hair and oversized flannel. On the rare occasion that Amy would look in the mirror, all she saw were tunnel eyes and cracked lips and the same dungarees she’d had since secondary school. She’d worked at the same bar in Exeter for the last five years, and she still kept her car keys and a guitar pick on her bed stand in case she ever needed to leave. Tommy had always known Amy like the veins on the back of his hands, and knew that for her sake today would be different. Today would be different. Continue reading